Let's say, conservatively, that the average cost of in-state college tuition is around $20,000. Add to that room and board of around $15,000 and books and supplies for about $3,000. That's almost $40,000 to attend just year of college, so quadruple that if you actually want to get a degree (at least in four years).
With the skyrocketing costs of college tuition these days, it's no wonder that today's teens are looking for innovative ways to offset the costs. That innovation is coming to them in the form of a new startup called Raise.me that lets high schoolers rack up funds for the things they might do anyway to prepare for college.
Raise.me is essentially a "microscholarship" program where teens can earn money for their individual achievements. Kids sign up to earn scholarships based on things like their grades, class attendance, completion of AP classes, and volunteer work. Once they are accepted to one of the colleges in the program, they get the money — no essays or recommendation letters required.
At the moment, there are about 130 colleges and universities across the U.S. — including Oberlin, Temple, Penn State and Carnegie Mellon — participating on Raise.me's platform. Each school sets its own parameters for scholarship levels and the amount that can be earned for various achievements.
One drawback that some see with the program is that it could drive students to see goals only in terms of dollars. For instance, a student may take an AP class that she's not necessarily interested in just to add $400 to her account. Or log hours of volunteer work not because it makes him a better citizen but because he can get $5 per hour to put toward college.
But, for the most part, Raise.me's platform works as a motivator for students to get good grades, attend class, take challenging classes and volunteer — all things they need to do anyhow if they want to go to college. The micro scholarships allow teens to take individual responsibility for the amount of money they raise. And it let's them watch as the dollars add up.
Most traditional scholarships aren't awarded until a student's senior year. That's too late for many kids to make a financial plan for college. But with Raise.me, they can log on in their freshman year and watch the dollars grow from there. The hope is that Raise.me can reach the students who might fall through the cracks after college — those that don't see an advanced degree in their future because they don't think they can afford it.
Raise.me's founders are hoping the startup can put college on the radar for kids who are willing to work hard to make it happen.